November 19, 2008


athri last month, learning to smile ‘on-demand’

happy birthday, athri kutti!

of all the days in 2008, you, your father, and i have picked today to be ill with flu. but just you bounce back to your cheeky-monkey-self; we’ll get better too, and then we’ll all have a very very aappy budday. okay? now can we have that smile again, please?

November 14, 2008

the best instruction

brian schofield is reminded of an episode when his friend kate summerfield won the samuel johnson award for non-fiction. he doesn’t mention this in the entire length of his article, but going by the picture that goes with it, maybe that is what he means. well, whatever.

why i am putting it here is because it has the best piece of instruction i’ve ever seen in a long time.

When I was a university undergraduate, a female friend of mine got an invitation to tea from Professor Miri Rubin, the august early-modern historian (who’s now a regular on Radio 4’s In Our Time).

“I asked you here,” Professor Rubin explained, “to tell you that you are an intelligent woman. And throughout your life, people are going to be discomfited by that fact, and they’ll pressure you to conceal it. But you have to be strong enough to walk into the room and say ‘Hello, I am an intelligent and serious-minded young woman, and if that’s not to your taste, that’s your problem.’ Understand?”

Nodding weakly and gulping her tea, my friend hurried down to the bar, where we all had a good laugh at the Professor’s pronouncement. We hadn’t a clue what she was talking about. Fifteen years of real life later, it makes perfect sense.


November 11, 2008

the journey is what matters, not the destination

with my phd proposal  – round two – handed in for the registration process, i was told that i was the only one of the six that made it that day. the others would be given two weeks to rework and resubmit for another screening. i don’t need to say it; mixed feelings mushrooming again…

this second phase of the phd will involve a lot of note-taking, reading and writing, before my work will be submitted in june 2009 for a yearly status-check again. will i be on track? will my thesis be accepted? will it make sense once i am well into it…all these are questions that are flying around my head, like harry potter and ron weasley and draco malfoy on their quidditch sticks.

the workshops have begun: i just completed two and there will be five more to go before the year ends. after much struggle with extremely-low confidence levels (thanks to a school-syllabus that managed to drill nothing but the notion of ‘average-ness’ into its students) and the practicality of my thesis subject, i was stunned when i was told i had got through. by this time, i had also turned down a brilliant job offer…no more distractions now, i decided, for better or worse. i still hope it was the right decision. i started with the writing process.

at the workshop last week, when i saw 24 other candidates all doing a phd in various topics, i felt humbled. there is so much to learn in the world, so much to do, and there is no age to it (one of them is 65-plus!). by the end of the second day, with each of our enthusiasm and fears rubbing on each other, i came back home feeling numb. i had met my supervisor earlier in the day and she conveyed an issue that the panel had felt with my proposal. aha, so it hadn’t really got through, i asked. it’s always so comfortable when you’re with the others rather than ahead of them.

she said no, and flashed a smile that always manages to iron out any worries i have, instantly. i passed straightaway, she said. but there still was a change i would need to make with my thesis, though she herself felt it was unnecessary. i had already planned a structure and most of the thesis around it. now that would all have to be altered…

what is it with being a student that one is so vulnerable to mood swings. (alright, i have them even otherwise, but now i have student-moodswings as well as the non-student ones.)

at home, i played with athri, spoke to my mother in india, and tried to leave the day behind.

imagine my surprise the next morning when i see achchan’s email in my inbox. mothers. how they can sniff a child’s mind from a telephone conversation! i had not spoken to my father that night. the mail was a puzzle at first, but gradually i understood what my father was trying to say. only he would say it this way!

and i thought i should share this with you:

prepare to go on a trip

1. tickets
2. travel bags
3. cloth for every day
4. cloth for protection, wool, socks etc
5. camera
6. films
7. charting itinerary for every day
8. medicines
9. knife
10. dry fruits
11. salties
12. biscuits
13. paper plates
14. spoons
15. tooth picks
16. face tissues
17. perfume/eu de colone
18. spare chappals
19. books to read
20. chess/
21. playing cards
22. mobile phone
23. mobile charger
24. tel. index
25. small note book
26. ball pens/pencils
27. hat/cap
28. face wash/make up items
29. comb
30. razor
31. ….

you may add few more things and you may expand on every item of the type, quality, purpose of each item.
the journey will be over soon, but preparations take longer. after you come back you do not need the above preparations. you tell your story of how you enjoyed the trip.

i hope you got my point.

i did, achchan. thank you 🙂